Friday, June 29, 2012

Preview: Italy!




by Ken

Yes, Italy! (And yes, I think we really do need the exclamation point!)

It was a source of fascination for all manner of more northerly creative artists, not just for the obvious reason (climate!) but for its position as the cradle of so much of Western culture, and there isn't any group for whom this was more true than musicians.

We're going to kick off with a composer who developed a deep affection for Italy. The composer and piece are so familiar that I thought I'd hold off identifying them for the time being -- and the performers as well. I will say, though, that all three of these (I think) quite wonderful recordings were made on what "neutral ground," which is to say North America. But we have one conductor born in Switzerland, one in Siberian Russia, and one in Hungary (Budapest, in fact). The Russian, at least, I think should be relatively easy to recognize. (For some totally inexplicable reason I had a devil of a time uploading this file, but I think the performance -- which hasn't circulated that much -- was worth the trouble.)

If you don't want to play, you can skip straight to the click-through, where the piece and the performances are all properly identified.

[A]

[B]

[The excerpt up top is from performance B (at 7:56).]
[C]



NOW TO HEAR OUR RECORDINGS PROPERLY IDENTIFIED --
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by Ken

Yes, Italy! (And yes, I think we really do need the exclamation point!)

It was a source of fascination for all manner of more northerly creative artists, not just for the obvious reason (climate!) but for its position as the cradle of so much of Western culture, and there isn't any group for whom this was more true than musicians.

We're going to kick off with a composer who developed a deep affection for Italy. The composer and piece are so familiar that I thought I'd hold off identifying them for the time being -- and the performers as well. I will say, though, that all three of these (I think) quite wonderful recordings were made on what "neutral ground," which is to say North America. But we have one conductor born in Switzerland, one in Siberian Russia, and one in Hungary (Budapest, in fact). The Russian, at least, I think should be relatively easy to recognize. (For some totally inexplicable reason I had a devil of a time uploading this file, but I think the performance -- which hasn't circulated that much -- was worth the trouble.)

If you don't want to play, you can skip straight to the click-through, where the piece and the performances are all properly identified.

[A]

[B]

[The excerpt up top is from performance B (at 7:56).]
[C]



NOW TO HEAR OUR RECORDINGS PROPERLY IDENTIFIED


As I wrote, "we have one conductor born in Switzerland, one in Siberian Russia, and one in Hungary (Budapest, in fact)," and our recordings of Tchaikovsky's Capriccio italien were presented in that order.


TCHAIKOVSKY: Capriccio italien, Op. 45
[Here's Wikipedia on the Capriccio italien.]

The Capriccio Italien, Op. 45, is a fantasy for orchestra composed between January and May 1880 by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.

The Capriccio was inspired by a trip Tchaikovsky took to Rome, during which he saw the Carnival in full swing, and is reminiscent of Italian folk music and street songs. As these elements are treated rather freely initially he intended this piece to be called Italian Fantasia. Tchaikovsky even uses as the introduction a bugle call that he overheard from his hotel played by Italian cavalry regiment. Another source of inspiration for this piece are Mikhail Glinka's Spanish Pieces.

The premiere was held in Moscow on December 18 of the same year; the orchestra was led by Nikolai Rubinstein. Although Tchaikovsky wrote to his patroness Nadezhda von Meck that the work would be successful (the piece was praised by most critics). By the time he came to orchestrate the work he expressed doubts about its musical substance.

Dedicated to Karl Davydov, the Capriccio was later arranged by the composer for 4-hand piano. A typical performance lasts for around 15 minutes.

The Capriccio is scored for 3 flutes (3rd doubling on piccolo), 2 oboes, English horn, 2 clarinets in A, 2 bassoons, 4 horns in F, 2 cornets in A, 2 trumpets in E, 3 trombones (2 tenor, 1 bass), tuba, 3 timpani, triangle, tambourine, cymbals, bass drum, glockenspiel, harp and strings.
[A]

Montreal Symphony Orchestra, Charles Dutoit, cond. Decca, recorded c1985
[B]

Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Rudolf Barshai, cond. CBC Enterprises, recorded 1985-86
[C]

Philadelphia Orchestra, Eugene Ormandy, cond. Columbia/CBS/Sony, recorded Feb. 22, 1966


IN THIS WEEK'S SUNDAY CLASSICS POST

We have the first in our series of longing-for-Italy pieces.
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